What would you do differently?

Photo credit: Robbert van der Steeg
Photo credit: Robbert van der Steeg

… if you had to start your software story again?

As a software industry enthusiast, I am curious to know how others see their business development and what they would change, in hindsight and with a set of brand new 2009 eyes. 🙂
Neil on Business of Software Network asked the community a similar question (If you could wave a magic wand…) related to the marketing of software. Answers such as focus on usability, better knowledge of customers poured in (the discussion is still open).
Some even expressed their wish to get into their customers heads completely, or even in their competition’s financial reports, to see if it’s worth outrunning them anyway.
When asked the same question, some ASP members mentioned for example the need to have had a team right from the start or outsource the skills they did not have, instead of doing it all by themselves.
If I were to start my software business again, I would find teammates and split the ownership. Or, I would have come to the realization much sooner that my dream of bootstrapping my own sweat investment into a good rate of return was not succeeding” – Mark Walsen, from Notation Software.
S Gupta from SSGIndia agreed on the necessity of partnership and even stated willingness to find such partners inside ASP “I would have started with partners with equal stake, commitments, diverse capabilities and Networking abilities“.
Riaz Faride from UpClick also stressed some interesting points on the ASP discussion lists, such as the need for community building even before the product launch and better security assessment:
I would start working on a thin client less than 5MB in size, which will be managed by a central network (same as Cloud Computing approach). The thin client would be distributed free of charge. All the features of the software would be subscription based or pay-per-use based. In this way, I would’t have to worry about protection, because we all know that no matter how hard you try securing a software, crackers always find a way around. Most importantly, I would be able to generate recurring revenues“.
I think the “what if” question is useful even if all it does is making you stop and evaluate where you are or if it makes you admit your mistakes along the way.  Some of the mistakes and pieces of advice I frequently hear from some ASP members or other software business professionals I have interviewed are:

  • Bob Walsh mentions problems that microISVs often have, such as not having a clear USP (Unique Selling Proposition) on their website, the lack of customer testimonials, being coy about the price and not presenting real contact information on the website;
  • Eric Sink‘s advice is to make sure, first of all, that your software is needed out there, that people will want to talk about it and that the current customers are your top priority, even before getting new ones;
  • Dave Collins warns about the failure to focus on marketing. He also recommends software authors to outsource the activities related to graphic and website design, press releases, SEO, AdWords, accounting and so on and to concentrate on development;
  • Marty Cagan says that the biggest mistake is confusing customer requirements with product requirements and often speaks about good product management – I recommend taking a look at his articles from time to time.
  • Nico Westerdale as well says one of his regrets is not moving faster in business development from the beginning and mentions the need to take high risks.

Andy Brice, another ASP member, even got a full presentation on the top 10 mistakes microISVs frequently make, that I warmly recommend watching.
So, what would you do differently if you had to start your software story over again? Please share your experience and lessons with us. It would be greatly helpful.